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In recent years, Lisbon has seen a drastic surge in popularity as more and more travelers discover this gorgeous city of trams, stunning architecture, sunny weather, delicious food and not to forget the warm and friendly ‘Lisboetas’, locals, willing to welcome anyone in to discover this gem of a city.
With so much going for it, it is easy to see why visitors are falling head over heels in love with Lisboa. That’s exactly what happened to us, which led us to move here permanently! Now calling Lisbon our home, I’ve decided to share all my insider tips and recommendations in this Lisbon City Guide, in order to help you plan your next visit to Lisbon.
How to get to Lisbon
Getting to Lisbon is fairly straightforward to do, given the city is home to the Lisbon Portela Airport, with regular local, European as well as international flights arriving and departing daily.
The airport is located not far from the city center and is also connected to Lisbon’s metro system, on the red line traveling from the Airport to the center of the city.
Of course, you may also make use of cab-hailing services such as Bolt, Uber, or Kapten as well as other taxi services or even the Aerobus service to get from the airport to the city.
As far as international rail services go, Lisbon is also connected to Madrid by overnight train that departs from and arrives into Lisbon’s Santa Apolonia train station.
If you’re planning a Spain to Portugal road trip, Lisbon is a great stop after Seville.
When to visit Lisbon and for how long
Thanks to almost year-round good weather, Lisbon is a fantastic travel destination no matter the time of year. But, if you truly want to make the best of your stay and take advantage of the incredible weather, whilst also avoiding the masses of tourists that descend upon the city in the peak season, then I would recommend visiting either between May and June or alternatively during the September to October months.
As far as possible, try to avoid July and August as this is typically when the Portuguese capital is overrun by throngs of visitors. It can also get unbearably hot during these months too.
I often get asked how much time is needed to visit the city and am often baffled by travelers who dedicate only a day to the city. At a bare minimum I would advise you to plan for at least a 3 day Lisbon itinerary, but even up to a week would still be the perfect amount of time to explore in and around the city without getting bored!
How to get around in Lisbon
Compared to many other European capitals, Lisbon is actually quite small and compact making it the ideal location if you prefer to get around on foot. If located centrally around the areas of Chiado, Baixa, or even Avenida Liberdade, you can see many of the city’s top sights without ever needing to make use of any public transport.
Regardless, Lisbon has a fairly inexpensive public transport system with four metro lines, trams, buses, and elevators making getting around a breeze.
If you’re the type of traveler that loves visiting all the major sights, museums, and points of interest, then the Lisboa Card tourist pass may work out most economical for you. Ranging in cost from €20 for a 24-hour pass to €42 for a 3-day pass and including unlimited travel on the public transport system as well as free entries and discounts into many attractions, this option is a good choice to consider.
Alternatively, you can also buy a re-usable metro card and top it up and simply pay as you make use of the system. This is referred to as ‘Zapping’, whereby a single metro journey will set you back a mere €1.34 per trip.
Last but not least, Lisbon has many cab-hailing services in operation, such as Uber, Bolt, or Kapten. Given the city’s compact size, it may work out far more economical to travel this way, even compared to Zapping, especially if you are traveling in a group of 2 or more. So, be sure to compare these to check what will work out best for your trip.
Tip: Lisbon has many hills and at certain points can be very steep. Please make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes with good grip.
Where to stay in Lisbon
The most central location to base yourself in is undoubtedly around the neighborhoods of Chiado and Baixa. This the heart and center of the city with excellent transport links to other parts of Lisbon. The only downside is that these areas can at times become crowded and overrun by tourists, due to their popularity.
A quieter alternative is the gorgeous tree-lined avenue of Avenida Liberdade. This trendy strip is also regarded as Lisbon’s most expensive area, but in saying this, you can still find excellent hotels befitting of any budget and preference here!
Lastly, I would also happily recommend the trendy and chic area of Principe Real, with many boutique stores, restaurants and bars lining the main street running through this neighborhood, it’s another great choice to consider when planning on where to stay.
6 Top Things to do in Lisbon Portugal
Despite its size, Lisbon is jam-packed with things to see, explore and do that it would honestly be difficult to bore of this beautiful city. Here then are some of my top suggestions for things to do in and around the city.
Check out the incredible views in Lisbon
Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills, which provide for ever-changing and breath-taking views everywhere you turn and look.
The city is blessed with stunning viewpoints, rooftop bars, and restaurants as well as vantage points from certain top sights.
Amongst my favourites are the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint, the Graça Viewpoint or the Miradouro de Santa Luzia.
As for rooftop bars, Topo Chiado, Park Bar, and Lost In are a few of my top picks that you should definitely give a try.
Another of my all-time favorite views is from the top of the iconic Rua Augusta arch or from the viewing deck of the Santa Justa Elevator, offering beautiful panoramic views out over the city.
Plan a day trip to royal Sintra
One of the reasons I always advocate for a longer stay is that Lisbon has so much to explore beyond the city itself. Within close proximity and in under an hour you can plan several day trips to explore places such as Cascais, Setubal, medieval Obidos, or my all-time favorite, a day trip to royal Sintra!
Sintra is a truly magical and special place, having served as the much-loved summer residence of Portuguese royalty and nobility back in the days when Portuguese still used to have a monarchy.
The monarchy may have been overthrown, but today Sintra still remains with incredible palaces, castles and noble estates dotted around the quaint and charming village. A visit to sights such as Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle as well as the lush gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira estate are all excellent reasons to visit Sintra for a day.
Explore old-Lisbon, Alfama
In the year of 1755, Lisbon was rocked by a massive earthquake and resultant fires and tsunami that hit and destroyed much of the city’s downtown. Thankfully, not all was lost and the area, known as Alfama, managed to survive and till this day remains the oldest part of the city.
Here you can wander through the narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, visit a Fado house to listen to traditional Portuguese folk song, visit the São Jorge castle up the hill in Castelo or admire yet more stunning views at the Portas do Sol or Santa Luzia viewpoints.
You can easily spend half a day or more as you meander through and discover all that Alfama has to offer.
Visit the neighbourhood of Bélem
A short 15-minute train ride from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré station is the riverfront neighborhood of Bélem, known for its UNESCO World Heritage sites and the famous sweet and delectable pastry, the Pasteis de Bélem.
The UNESCO sights, the Torre de Bélem, and the Jeronimos Monastery, both dating back to around the 1500s and are excellent examples of Portugal’s Manueline architectural styles.
Within easy reach, you will also find the Discoveries Monument (Padrão dos Descubrimentos), the National Coach Museum as well as the presidential Palace.
Before leaving Bélem though, you have to stop by the famous Pasteis de Bélem bakery where they still bake the original and scrumptious egg-yolk custard tartlets that Lisbon has become famous for.
Party up a storm in Bairro Alto
Are you somewhat of a party animal? Then the neighborhood bordering Chiado, named Bairro Alto, is the place to be. This area is a maze of narrow streets lined with bars, restaurants, and clubs that come alive at night when revelers pack the streets until the early hours of the morning.
Note: When planning where to stay, be aware that Bairro Alto can be noisy and crowded, and as such not an area I would recommend you check into. Bars and clubs in Portugal may operate until 03:00 am in the morning, so if you value your sleep, then steer clear from booking accommodation here.
Get to grips with downtown Lisbon – Chiado & Baixa
Last but not least, explore the downtown areas of Lisbon, Chiado, and its neighbor Baixa. Notable sites here include the Santa Justa Elevator, the Rua Augusta pedestrian shopping street, the Praça Luís de Camões square, the São Roque Church, the Carmo Church ruins as well as the gorgeous views from my favorite viewpoint, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.
With so much to see and do, not just within the city itself but also in its nearby surroundings, you will never get bored when visiting Lisbon for a couple of days.
It is a truly special and enchanting city to visit, bound to steal your heart from the minute you step foot into sunny Lisboa.
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 2 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain, and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo. You can follow him at Travel-Boo or on social media below:
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